NOW ON VIDEO ON DEMAND! The requirements for an excellent indie action movie are low. It’s got to be all about the action. What director R. Ellis Frazier and star/writer Michael Jai White bring in As Good As Dead is the ability to tell a decent story to string some great action scenes together.
In As Good As Dead, Michael Jai White plays the reclusive Bryant. By day, he works as a non-descript surveyor in a small town in Mexico. On his off time, he trains by his mobile home out in the middle of the desert to keep his body lean. Why? No particular reason (right?!?). While Bryant trains, off in the distance, we see a young teen boy, Oscar (Luca Oriel), who matches Bryant’s moves as a way to get free lessons in fighting. Seeing the kid, Bryant offers to mentor Oscar. Cue the training montage.
What Bryant brings to the table is his unique style of fighting, which opens with both arms above the shoulder and protects the head. Oscar begs to use his new skills to compete as an MMA fighter. But Bryant warns him that these moves are defensive only and urges him never to use this style of fighting in public.
Of course, things have to get spicy. It starts with Oscar’s brother, Hector (Guillermo Iván), and his early release from prison. He wants to cash in on Oscar’s new skills, which brings them to the local gym run by the beautiful Marisol’s (Gabriela Quezada) father. Bryant is so pissed off because Oscar brought his criminal brother to his home/bulletproof bunker that he cuts the boy off and, with guns blazing, demands they leave him alone.
“…Sonny Kilbane, who sends an army of well-armed combat-trained ex-army mercenaries to take down Bryant.”
As Oscar wins his first match, his unique fighting style goes viral from the hundreds of cell phones capturing the match. The video reaches the villainous Sonny Kilbane (Tom Berenger), who sends an army of well-armed combat-trained ex-army mercenaries to take down Bryant.
As Good as Dead harkens back to the action movies of the 1990s. No CGI. Just plain old action — fists, cars, and guns. Veteran action hero Michael Jai White is the star, and he brings us a particular style of martial arts action in this homage to the Karate Kid. The beauty of White’s narrative is its simple David and Goliath narrative. From the beginning, we know who to root for in the Mexican fish-out-of-water Bryant and the scrawny Oscar. Right away, the mentor relationship begins, only to be challenged by his hoodlum brother. Then we flip everything on its head with an entire mafia angle.
The film is fun from start to finish. Michael Jai White kicks a lot of a*s with a nice variety of action set pieces. Good action films are like video games. It starts with dispatching the minions, moving up through the mini-bosses, and finally to the big bad, who is equal to, if not better than, our hero.
I’ve reviewed several indie action films with Michael Jai White. To my memory, he’s played chiefly supporting characters. Here Michael Jai White is the lead as well as the writer. He’s also incredibly jacked up. All this to say, after seeing As Good as Dead, I need to see what’s coming next from him.